Outside, petty thoughts fall away and gratitude blossoms
By Annie Katz
This morning I woke up with a cranky 2-year-old in my head. She wailed in the shower when I got a tiny bit of shampoo in my eye. She threw a fit when I got ready to go shopping for groceries. I’m 75 years old, so I acknowledged the fussy mind, changed plans and considered helpful spiritual practices. I chose one that nearly always works: Go outside and pray.
I live in a charming granny-flat cottage on a farm south of Ashland. When I walk on these country roads at sunrise, I see half a dozen horses, a few deer and maybe one human. There’s a creek down the hill with shady trees and the lovely music of cold water tumbling over smooth rocks.
When I’m outside in clean air with mountains, trees and other animals all around me, petty thoughts fall away and gratitude blossoms. I’m alive. The same way the blackberry bushes, oak trees and songbirds are alive. What joy to be alive on Planet Earth!
When I was in my 40s, I went through a long suicidal depression. In that desolate phase, one night I woke up terrified. A storm raged outside the drafty basement apartment where I lived, and I thought I’d go mad from fear, confusion and loneliness. I was so desperate that I prayed for help.
A strong voice inside me said, “Go outside!”
You know that voice. I think of it as the voice of god, even though I don’t believe in god.
So I got up in the middle of the night and went outside. Standing naked on the porch, shocked awake by icy rain pelting my bare skin, I looked up and saw storm clouds parting to reveal a star shining light on me from millions of miles away. The voice said, “You are never alone.”
All fear, despair, and loneliness washed away, and I laughed. I’m alive! In a human body!
While I was writing this, a friend called me. I was so happy to hear her voice. She said that she was meditating and heard a sound like someone knocking to get attention, and the sound was so real that she came out of meditation and thought about me. That’s why she called, to check on me, because we hadn’t talked in several weeks.
I told her about writing this article, and I thanked her for confirming that we are never alone. We are connected by invisible threads to everything else in creation, and when we sit still, we sense those connections, respond to unspoken needs and support one another.
And even when we feel completely lost and friendless, Mother Nature is here for us.
One time I was feeling so much sadness about things that had happened to me when I was a child that I was weighed down with it, unable to shake a sense of worthlessness, unable to see a way out of misery. I was living near the ocean, so I lugged my unhappiness outside and walked through layers of thick, cold fog on a desolate beach. I came to a huge volcanic rock ridge that jutted out into the ocean. I climbed up onto that black, cold, wet stone and lay down on it. I draped my arms and legs over the sides and rested my face on it, wishing I could freeze to death and die right there.
The rock, with deep understanding and compassion, drained away all my sadness and filled me with warmth and hope. When I climbed down off that huge, black stone, my heavy burden was gone, and I knew that life wasn’t done with me yet.
When we go outside and beg for help, Nature gives us what we need, when we need it. So today I will keep breathing, walking, reading, writing, studying and enjoying the flow of life in me and around me, fussy-mind moments and all.
Anything can happen anytime. Thank you, life! Thank you.
Annie Katz is a retired educator living in Ashland. She has studied philosophy and spiritual practices all her life and now writes novels for fun.
Send 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Richard Carey (firstname.lastname@example.org).